Wrangell can use the year to prepare

A pair of Holland America cruise ships — each with capacity for more than 2,700 passengers and crew — are scheduled to call on Wrangell in 2024. Each will make one visit. Each visit will more than double the community’s population for the day.

And each visit will provide the town with a great opportunity to market itself — though also requiring a lot of work to get ready.

It’s the first time the major cruise line has included Wrangell in its pre-season advertising.

“We decided to add several ports that we have not typically visited to add variety to the cruise experience and allow guests to experience new locations, like Wrangell, so they can immerse themselves in local scenery, food and tradition,” Erik Elvejord, director of public relations for Holland America Line, told the Sentinel earlier this month.

Cruise lines plan their schedules far in advance, which is good for Wrangell, giving the town a year to prepare to showcase its scenery, food, traditions and culture. But that year will go quickly.

If the community wants to see Holland America ships return and see others join them, and also attract more overnight, independent travelers, it needs to think about what visitors can see and do in town. It needs to make plans to handle the increased traffic and offer more amenities and a memorable experience to sell the town.

Most of that planning and organizing work will fall on tourism-related business, particularly Anan and Stikine tour operators, shops, galleries, the museum and chamber of commerce, with strong help from the borough and its newly created marketing and community development coordinator.

More typically, Wrangell’s summer schedule ranges from 50- to 700-passenger ships. If the two Holland America ships are anywhere close to full in 2024, they could boost the summer’s cruise ship visitor count by 25%. Helping to keep that many visitors busy and happy — and telling their friends not to miss Wrangell — should be a welcome task for a community that needs more economic activity and more promotion.

For example, Stikine River, LeConte Glacier and Anan Wildlife Observatory tour operators can plan ahead to have boats and crew ready when the cruise lines work with them to presell tickets to passengers. Maybe organized trail hikes are a viable attraction. Cooking sessions, learning to prepare local seafoods could be a tasty addition to the town’s tourism menu. And there is no shortage of Wrangell artists who could help make the town a gallery walk for visitors.

The community talks about boosting visitor spending and getting more people to come here. The Holland America ships are an advance reminder that Wrangell needs to plan and invest to make the most of the opportunity.

— Wrangell Sentinel


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